Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?

October the 6th 2018 seems like such a long time ago, doesn’t it?  On that day I posted a small item about the end of the line for ICE engines.

Perfect lead-in curvature

Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.

In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

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I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

Getting Down With Da Kidz, Heide Style

Volkswagen’s T-Roc compact recreational SUV is not some belated attempt at jumping on the bandwagon. It’s worse than that. 

vw-t-roc-2017-1_1
Livin’ the urban spirit of Photoshopolis, photo (c) autozeitung.de

Despite decades of commentators claiming the opposite, being a designer at VW never was an easy job. One needs to be within spitting distance to current fashion, but still keep the technocratic aloofness that’s characterised the brand’s best products intact. Which is no mean feat under any circumstances. Continue reading “Getting Down With Da Kidz, Heide Style”

Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS Road Test

This appears to be a transcript of a review of the 1966 Simca 1000 LS by the well-known motoring author and journalist, Archie Vicar.

1966 Simca 1000: source
1966 Simca 1000: source

This item appeared in the morning edition of the Minehead Bugle on July 9, 1966. Original photos by Ernest Pallace. Due to the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used.

In these increasingly competitive times, it pays for a manufacturer to stay ahead of the game, far ahead. Several marques have established themselves at the forefront of engineering with their recent deployment of rear-engined technology. Of course there is the long-established Volkswagen Beetle and the not dissimilar Porsche 911, both with handling that will challenge Continue reading “Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS Road Test”

Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure

As David Pye observed, every design is a failure.

Failure.
Failure.

His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to make it an economically feasible proposition.  The best knife can’t appeal to everyone. For some consumers the design is unacceptable  – it remains unsold for reason of price or appearance. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”

C what I did

Further to Sean Patrick´s excellent idea about decals to give your boring car a more contemporary, fun and sporting look, I have shown three products in the upcoming range.

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The decals make the car more premium, add a touch of dynamic flair and increase the perceived quality by accentuating the maturity of the style. Graphics and sculpting together produce a greater sense of athleticism while underlining the greater modernity of the cars.

LA Motor Show Shorts 2

Very short this time. While everyone else is wondering if this three-row, seven seat leviathan can crack the US market for VW, I am wondering if…

2017 VW Leviathan: source
2017 VW Leviathan: source

…VW has a thing about gold metallic paint. Looking past the attractive paint, I notice they have chosen to give it a curious-looking feature line down the side, one paralleling the wheel-arches which are very nearly squarish. The headlamps and grille are styled to look rational – is this what the SUV buyer in the US actually wants? I had argued they want something quite ugly and butch-looking. I mean that buyers of SUVs who use them to cart junk and do heavy work probably don’t care a lot for Bauhaus geometry. The people who do will buy a Q7, I would have thought.

No, I Don’t Think So

Taking the unveiling of the facelifted Golf as the starting point Autocar thinks all car makers should aspire to evolutionary design. DTW disagrees.

2017 VW Golf: source
2017 VW Golf: source

“It’s a ballsy move, though, making a car look like its predecessor. But one that’s starting to spread – Audi’s in on the game too, with its new Q5, and BMW did it with the new 5 Series not long ago” writes Autocar.

The Golf is a text-book example of a product that has evolved gradually over the course of its 40 years on the market. Audi have also cleaved to such a strategy as do BMW (nearly). Mercedes have been less adept at this. Sometimes they’ve adopted quite florid designs such as the fintail cars and most of the current batch. At other times they’ve had the urge to

Continue reading “No, I Don’t Think So”

A Picture and Some Questions

A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.

Top selling saloons and others
Top selling saloons and others

A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?

[Photo sources: Autocar, caranddriver, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Ford, Renault]

Question of the Day

Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?

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The ID concept is claimed to have a 371 mile range (compared to the 248 miles of a Renault Zoe). At present Chevrolet’s Bolt promises around 230 or so (and Car and Driver have confirmed this). I’m more interested in the visual semantics of electric cars though. Tesla have chosen to make their cars look quite conventional (less so with the X). BMW have opted for po-mo design while the Zoe could conceivably be an ordinary modernist car: not Tesla’s classicism and nor either obviously outré. Continue reading “Question of the Day”

Three to Five

The DTW difference is that we don’t just repost the news but provide incisive analyses that compound mere data into something altogether more meaningful. 

2017 Kia Rio theme drawing: source
2017 Kia Rio theme drawing: source

This article represents an instance of our remarkable service. Autocar and Automotive News both reported on the upcoming Kia Rio by kindly showing some renderings of the planned car. Autocar also reported on the Polo showing it driving around in disguise (“camo”). Regarding the Rio, AN felt it important to tell us that the car will look sportier and that it will have a longer bonnet. In comparison to the quite fine outgoing vehicle, Kia said the new design would have a “longer wheelbase, and upright C-pillar [to] give the car a more confident and balanced appearance”. So the current car is not that confident and not balanced enough apparently. Owners must be happy to be told that.  About the VW Polo, Autocar reports it’ll be a longer and lighter car. For a change, no mention is made of increased sportiness. So far so good, that’s our data: now the synthesis part. Continue reading “Three to Five”

Theme: Colour – She Wore Lemon

Mimosa yellow must be one of the most distinctive paint names after whatever the heck it is Ferrari calls its red.

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Over the last few weeks I went in search of yellow cars and, for the sake of completeness I’ve thrown the Tesla into the pile. None of these manage to be Mimosa yellow. That would have been very pleasing. From a safety point of view, a bright yellow car must be among the most visible against the widest range of backgrounds. Apart from that rather dull reason to prefer it, I find yellow a cheerful colour which to my eye, seems quite gender neutral whereas Continue reading “Theme: Colour – She Wore Lemon”

2006 is Ten Years Old This Year!

The past they say is a foreign country. I wouldn’t know about that, but a lot has happened in ten years. Hasn’t it?

1996 GM EV1. Itself a decade old in 2006. Image: oldcarbrochures
1996 GM EV1. Itself a decade old in 2006. Image: oldcarbrochures

It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but through mathematical deduction I can deduce that 2006 is in fact a decade old this year. To further the so much, yet so little has changed analogy, looking at geopolitical events of the year, the big issues at the time remain front page news now. The Middle East, North Korean’s nuclear ambitions, Oil prices, extreme weather; although the International Astronomical Union’s planetary downgrade of Pluto could only realistically be described as a one-off, although the astronomical entity itself was said to be absolutely gutted by the decision.

Earthbound, the automotive industry was enjoying a final fling before the meltdown of Autumn 2008, but events were unfolding nonetheless.  Continue reading “2006 is Ten Years Old This Year!”

2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test

Recently DTW tested the arch-mainstream car, the VW Golf. This week we sample the joys of Toyota’s Auris and find out a little about how the two cars compare.

2016 Toyota Auris 1.6
2016 Toyota Auris 1.6

I don’t imagine that many people accept the keys of an Auris with much sense of excitement. However, I experienced a small burst of what many would call satisfaction when I found myself cupping the Auris’ keys in my hot little hand. A few weeks back I tested what many consider the benchmark C-class car, the VW Golf. Driving the Auris so soon after experiencing the Golf meant I had a good frame of reference for the Auris. I’ve also driven most of the other C-class cars, apart from the current Astra. That means I think I can offer this review with some sense of perspective. Continue reading “2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test”

Malady’s Echo Chamber

Not only is Volkswagen riding out the worst of the Dieselgate scandal, they are on track to steal Toyota’s crown as the world’s biggest car maker.

head2head

Read anything about Volkswagen in recent months and you would gain the impression that the company was on the ropes. Production numbers from the first third of 2016 paint a different picture, however. So what’s the actual story? Continue reading “Malady’s Echo Chamber”

2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions

Between the choice of a Toyota Auris and a VW Golf, I went for the Wolfsburg car.

2016 VW Golf front interior door-handle.
2016 VW Golf front interior door-handle.

The Toyota would be too uninteresting, I thought.

It would be simpler if I didn’t write a review at all. Nobody needs to know I drove this and no-one need ever discover what a hard time I’ve had writing something intelligent about Europe’s favourite car.

What will I remember about the Golf? Two or three things. One, the interior door grip is squeeky. It’s made of two shells that don’t fit precisely. In counterpoint, there are two interior rear roof lights that don’t budge when you turn them on. They were well-secured to the roof, not the headliner. And you’re never sure you’ve turned them off. Two, the CD player is in the glovebox. Three, the boot is smaller than I liked. Lots of litres are wasted under the boot floor panel.  Continue reading “2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions”

Drive By Movies: Cars and Film Posters 2

The car has been woven into the fabric of Hollywood since the early days of both. Each is a symbol of a uniquely American brand of mass prosperity, the polished chrome of the American automobile reflecting the bright lights and glitz of showbiz right back at itself.

Given this symbiotic nature, it comes as little surprise that cars have enjoyed star billing on numerous movie posters over the years. Some are great; many more are trash (but a lot of fun). Here are some of my favourites.

We might as well get the ball rolling with a classic. International market posters are often more interesting than their American or British equivalents, and so it goes with this French issue single sheet for Peter Yates’ genre classic, Bullitt (1968). Obviously Steve McQueen has to be the biggest thing on the poster, his gun holster and weary pose telling you everything you need to know about the character he plays. Continue reading “Drive By Movies: Cars and Film Posters 2”

Stocking Up On Received Wisdom

Seeking insight, your correspondent gives the BBC a punt. He’s both impressed and unimpressed by what he discovers.

100% Clarkson-free
100% Clarkson-free – the 2016 Top Gear New Car Buyers [sic] Guide. It knows the price of everything…

The car magazine I usually buy has given up on price lists so I had to get the Top Gear 2016 New Car Buyers [sic] Guide. That should be buyer’s guide (the guide of one buyer) or buyers’ guide (the guide of lots of buyers). In no particular order I gleaned some new received wisdom.

Before I launch into that, I am in the position of having to Continue reading “Stocking Up On Received Wisdom”

Understanding Blandness

There is a fine line between the severely rational and the bland. The 1997 Toyota Avensis is bland yet there is a hint of something else there too.

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What little character the car has did come from somewhere. So, what inspired the theme? To try to understand this car is to try to guess at what else Toyota had in mind when developing it. If the car was launched in 1997 then the designers were looking at cars launched or on sale in three years before: 1994. What do we find? The Opel Omega and Renault Laguna had the most impact. The Peugeot 406 and Mazda 626 estates also guided the packaging targets. Continue reading “Understanding Blandness”

Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions

What a year for cars. VW Golf Mk3 replaced the Mk2 in 1991. What made it special?

1994 VW Golf New Orleans: wikipedia.org
1994 VW Golf New Orleans: wikipedia.org

Car magazine in 1994 deemed the Mk3 (as a VR6) sufficiently poorly made to warrant the re-use of their “Lemon” cover, first used in 1973. It’s interesting that Car would make a long-term test the subject of a whole front cover when they also had the opportunity to put an Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 456GT up front. That was then. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions”

Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?

As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?

VW's puppetmaster-in-chief - Dr Ferdinand Piech
VW’s puppetmaster-in-chief – Dr Ferdinand Piëch . Photo via spiegel.de

Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation.  Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”

Benchmarks: Audi’s Monospace Capsule

The A2 wasn’t simply the most intelligently wrought Audi ever. It was also their most expensive sales flop. We tell its story.

Audi A2. Image via nordschleifeautoblahg
Image (c) nordschleifeautoblahg

History marks the Audi A2 as a failure, and with vast commercial losses incurred during a six year lifespan, it’s a simple and convenient dismissal. Since its 2005 demise, the party line has been that Audi took a brave, risky and ultimately doomed gamble into the unknown, one which was studiously ignored by the buying public. But is it as simple as that?

It had been an open secret since the late-1980s that Daimler-Benz had a compact hatchback in development. Such an incursion into the VW Group’s orbit was viewed by Chairman, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch as a gross betrayal, precipitating amongst other things, this overt cost-no-object rival.

Schemed on the basis of an ultra-economical VW concept, Piëch tasked Audi engineers to create a technological statement with the avowed intention of putting his detested rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim firmly in their place.

Ingolstadt’s engineers had one pronounced ace in their pocket – material technology, in the form of aluminium spaceframe construction pioneered in the range-topping A8. However when Audi displayed the Al2 concept as a spoiler to the Mercedes A-Class’ 1997 debut, few saw it as anything more than simply another fit of Piëch. Two years later, both press and public realised just how serious he was.

Image via bilmodel
Image (c) bilmodel

An engineer’s car from its rounded nose to the tip of its aerodynamically shaped tail-lights, the A2 appeared to have been milled from a solid billet of aluminium. Luc Donckerwolke’s styling scheme was a masterpiece of form and structural function. Its design detail was a delight and with a exquisitely streamlined teardrop shape the A2 was a pared-back study in visual and material purity.

Beautifully finished and assembled to similar standards of care as larger Audi models, the A2 became an object of desire for design aficionados from Dingolfing to Dungeness. Ingolstadt would never be this clever again.

Image via audiworld
The level of investment in the A2’s aluminium spaceframe construction was huge. Image (c) audiworld

But this level of integrity costs. Priced above a well-specified Golf, prospective customers really had to make a case for the Audi. Combine this with small-capacity carry-over VAG engines (with a commensurate lack of performance – a function of its efficiency brief), and the A2’s fate was sealed.

Because while the market was perplexed by Mercedes’ A-Class, it was utterly confounded by the A2. Was it a compact luxury saloon or an economy trailblazer – could it be both? The motoring public are notoriously both fickle and inherently conservative and therefore by nature abhor a smart-Alec.

As a result, buyers cleaved to the safety of convention, so A2 never troubled the sales charts. After six slow years Audi pulled the plug, replacing it with the screamingly conventional, and considerably more market-friendly Polo-based A1.

Image via picgifs
Image (c) picgifs

VW ultimately lost €1.3bn on the A2 programme, although one suspects its costs were written off before the first production car rolled down the lines. The A2 did its job for Dr. Piëch, proving Audi could out-engineer their bitter Stuttgart rivals.

Yet the A2 proved a more durable design amidst enlightened autophiles – held in genuine affection by owners and those (like this author) who still quietly covet one. While sales success eluded the A2 during its life, it has become a sought after secondhand buy, holding significantly more residual value than its considerably less well wrought A-Class rival.

Late era A2's were available in these cheerful Colourstorm liveries - image via A2oc
Late model A2’s were also available in these cheerful Colourstorm liveries – image (c) A2oc via fourtitude

Today, an A2 arguably makes even more sense – its alloy body impervious to rust, and with commendably low running costs – especially in three-cylinder TDi form. While Audi have abandoned the A2 concept, recently stating they have no intention of producing a similar monospace vehicle, the concept has taken on new life at Munich’s Petuelring, with BMW’s i3 vividly illustrating the A2’s prescience.

The European D-Sector – A German Perspective

The Passat is very much das auto in the European D-segment. We look at how everyone else is doing.

Image via autoblog
Passat 2015-style. Image via autoblog

With the strongest sales of all of the major European producers, German manufacturers remain hugely successful in the mainstream D-segment. Today, we delve below the surface to see if the figures tell the full story.
Continue reading “The European D-Sector – A German Perspective”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)

After having gone from strength to strength in recent years, Volkswagen AG (VAG) all of a sudden appears to be in an awful lot of trouble. But appearances can be deceiving.

vw-unfaelle-kaefer-08-0136

First in a series on the German automotive industry, seen from a German perspective.

In the not-too-distant past, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before VAG chairman, Ferdinand Piëch – aided by his obliging CEO, Martin Winterkorn – could finally ascend the throne of the global automotive domain. There may have been the odd mumble regarding disappointing performance in the US market, but, by and large, everything seemed to be rosy in Volkswagenland. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)”

Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior

You’ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?

1962 DKW

Glostrup Cars in Denmark are selling this two-stroke body-on-frame fossil for just under €10,000. Introduced in 1959, the Juniors (renamed F11 or F12) were discontinued in 1965 when VW bought the firm, ending DKW’s post-war association with Mercedes*. These diminutive DKWs were built in Ingolstadt, at a new factory. The car’s run ended when it became clear that it was just not up to facing the competition presented by VW’s Beetle and Opel’s smaller cars (possibly the 1962 Kadett). Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior”